Dusko Gojkovic has a name that has provided him with many different identities over the years. He was born in 1931 in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina but has spent most of his life in Munich, Germany. He became a professional trumpet-player at a very young age and was one of the first people to create the sounds we now know as Balkan Jazz. His resume of songs speaks for itself. Here is an interview with a man who has been a staple in European Jazz for many, many years:
How many ways is there to spell your name?
My real name is Dusan Gojkovic. Upon immigrating to the US in the 1960’s, I realized that Americans could pronounce it every way but right. I have been collecting these spellings for years: Dasco Godjkebich, Goyawich, Daskowich Goicowsky, Suzan Gayovitsh, Goiavik etc. Even my boss at one time, Woody Herman, couldn’t get it right after two years. One day I suggested that I should change my name. He was vehemently against that. He said, “You know, here in America you have to get attention any-which way. So, when I announce you and nobody gets the name right, asking, ‘what was that funny name of that European trumpetplayer?’ that’s how they will remember you.” I thought if they don’t remember me for playing my trumpet, then…
You went to Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1961/62. How did you find that experience and did you study with any other musicians that became well known?
It was fantastic. I think I didn’t miss one single day in one and half years. It was so exciting. Great teachers. We also became friends. The great Herb Pomeroy was my primary teacher. You would write a chart in the evening and bring it the next morning for school rehearsal. They would play it for you. Then you could hear all the mistakes that you made. And Herb was there to show you what’s wrong and help you solve it. There were only a few hundred students at the time including Gary Burton, Tony Williams, Mike Gibbs, Steve Markus, Dave Young and Sadao Watanabe.
Which was your first record? Was it Swinging Macedonia?
I recorded “Swinging Macedonia” in Cologne, Germany in 1966. It was the third LP I did under my name and it really opened my way in creating the so-called “Balkan Jazz” style. Five years before I went to Boston, while I was playing with the Kurt Edelhagen Band (WDR, Radio Cologne Big Band), I recorded my first Octet LP for a Yugoslavian label in Belgrade with Kenny Clarke on drums and Francy Boland arranged and played piano. A year later we did another LP. It was also an Octet with Kenny Clarke and Francy Boland and some other musicians. It came out in the States on Blue Note Records under the name, “The Golden Eight”. When we were finished with the recordings, Gigi Campi, who helped me with getting studio and assembling the musicians in Cologne, suggested to put it under Kenny’s and Francy’s names. I was not so well known then. I said OK. I thought at the time that it was important that the music was good not what name it was under. Out of the Octet-idea came later the “Clarke – Boland Big Band”.
What makes Balkan Jazz?
The broken rhythms 5/4, 7/8 etc. It was based on European-Balkan, folk-ethno groove (and) that was not so common in jazz at the time. I think it’s really genuine and a European contribution to jazz. I think I can be proud of the fact that I happen (to my knowledge) to be the first playing this music in jazz-idiom and inventing the term Balkan Jazz.
What are your memories of the late Danish saxplayer Bent Jædig?
I had a quintet with tenorist Sal Nistico. In 1965, we both left Woody Herman’s band after playing Juan-le-Pins festival in Antibes, France. When Sal left the quintet to go back to the States for good, Bent Jædig joined our group. We had many gigs all over the place but I think the most exciting times we had were for (about) 8 months when ‘Philly’ Joe Jones was our drummer. Bent also recorded with me many times and he asked me to play on his record “Danish Jazzman 1967” in Copenhagen. At that time Copenhagen was full of excellent jazz players and I think it was one of the hippest places in Europe. And Bent was a lovely person, always laughing and telling jokes.
Listen to Bent Jædig featuring Dusko Gojkovic – “I remember O.P.”
You also recorded for the German library music label Selected Sounds. How did that come about? And how was it as an artist to record library music?
At that time life for a jazz musician was not easy here in Munich. There were not many jazz gigs. It was getting hard to pay the rent. You must have heard those kinds of stories from jazz musicians from all over the world. An Austrian composer, pianist and producer asked if I wanted to do some joint projects with him. That included ‘Selected Sounds’. I did it and even I think that it didn’t sound too bad. It was not commercially available. He gave it to radio DJ’s, to play on the air, so he would collect the GEMA-royalities.
You joined Canadian horn-player Maynard Fergusons band from 1961 to 1964. That was a big break for you. How was it to work with him?
Man, he was phenomenal! He could play a “double high C” any time. He was always joking, good natured and he never got mad. There was an extreme excitement and energy in the band even though we only had maybe two gigs a week. One day we had a gig at Timothy Leary’s funny farm place just outside of New York City. I got on the band through recommendation of Swedish trumpet-player Rolf Ericsson, who left Maynards band to join Duke Ellington orchestra.
How did you meet pianist Mal Waldron who decided to settle down in Europe in the mid 1960’s?
Soon after I returned from New York I travelled to Rome for a gig with Sal Nistico and the Quintet at the jazz club “Crazy Horse” owned by a fine Italian jazz singer, Lillian Terry. One afternoon we were driving in her car through the city and I saw a familiar-looking Black man standing on the corner trembling. I asked Lillian “Who is that?” She replied, “Mal Waldron, the American pianist that worked with Lady Day and John Coltrane”. I said, “Stop the car!” I went to meet him and say hello. Many moons later he told me that he came over to save his life and to get away from the drug-scene in New York. Anyway, I told him I was looking for piano player and asked if he would come to Cologne to play at my sisters jazz club. He stayed there for at least a year then we both moved to Munich.
Dusko Gojkovic still lives in Munich, Germany and is very active to this day.
You can read more about Dusko Gojkovic here: